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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

It Is Well

Recently I came across a newly-released song that has been ministering to my heart these past days. The title of the album (soon to be released) caught my eye: "Farewell To Fear" by the group Finding Favour. In clicking on this song title, I knew I had found my new favorite. I wanted to share these beautiful words with you today because I think we could all use a little comfort, a little reminder that God is still sovereign and in control over all aspects of life. We just have to trust Him!

"Your Spirit's my assurance when trials may come;
I'm holding to the promise that You've already won,
It is well..."


Monday, August 21, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Think of the brokenness, the incompleteness, the littleness of these lives of ours! 
We get glimpses of beauty in character, which we are not able to attain! We have spiritual longings which seem to us too great to ever come true. We dream of things we want to do but when we try to work them out, our clumsy hands cannot put them into realizations!
We have glimmerings of a love that is very rich and tender, without a trace of selfishness, without envy or jealousy, without resentment - a love which does not seek its own, more is not provoked, and bears all things. We get the vision from the life of Christ Himself. We say, 'I will learn that lesson of love - I will be like that!' But we fail.
We strive to be sweet-spirited, unselfish, thoughtful, kind - but we must wet our pillow with tears at the close of our marred days, because we cannot be what we strive to be! We have glimpses of an inner peace which is very beautiful. We strive after it, strive with intense effort - but do not reach it!
So it is in all our living. Life is ever something too large for us. We attain only fragments of living. Yet take heart, 'The desire of the righteous shall be granted!' (Proverbs 10:24)"
             - J. R. Miller 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Quote of the Day

"...Wounds can be openings to the beauty in us. And our weaknesses can be a container for God's glory. Hannah tasted salty tears of infertility. Elijah howled for God to take his life. David asked his soul a thousand times why it was so downcast. God does great things through the greatly wounded. God sees the broken as the best and He sees the best in the broken and He calls the wounded to be the world changers."
                 - Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way

Friday, August 18, 2017

Quote of the Day

"I thought I'd encourage you this week with one little thought - and that's that you don't need to hide from God. In fact, do we realize how funny that even sounds? As if we really could.
So we put on a mask, put on a front, and try to only put our best foot forward to our friends, our spouse, or the outside world on social media. But that's what's awesome is God didn't die for the 'best foot forward' us. He died for the messy version. The failing version. The one who deals with shame, and past decisions, and hurt, and anxiety, and depression, and on and on. He sees us right in that. Right in the hard place. And with fiery white hot eyes of love says I see you. You are who I want to be with. I died for this version of you, you don't have to hide anymore.
His voice is tender and gracious and beautiful and calls us out of hiding. Might we step into that call today? Because that's where freedom is at."
           - Jefferson Bethke

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Maybe us with broken hearts simply need that - key people who break us open to see how Christ never stops holding our wounds, to break us free from all the crushing expectations, key people who simply say, 'Come, it's safe to be real here, safe to let the brokenness come.' Who doesn't need key people who free us from the old courtrooms where judgement and the scales of perfection have felt like millstones around our breaking necks? There isn't one of us who doesn't need key people who believe that the broken are the most beloved, that the busted are the brave, that the limping can lead - and that everything that looks like it's breaking apart might actually be falling together. 
And isn't this what I've been longing to be - broken and broken free to be a key person? One of the soul emancipators who unleash others into who they are already in Him, no judging skeletons in closets...
Maybe - we become a key person when we hand a key to break someone free...by giving each other our broken hearts. 
It's always the vulnerable heart that breaks broken hearts free. 
Am I brave enough...to live not afraid of broken things?"
                   - Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way




Today, I am thankful for the key people in my life who love me enough to not be afraid of my brokenness and who are the human hands and feet of Jesus to me daily. I hope and pray that through this blog I have been and can continue to be a key person to some other hurting soul out there! 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Farewell To Fear

 Over the three and a half years I've been blogging on here, I've made many confessions. I've discussed things that I never expected would ever be brought to light. I've opened up some fairly painful conversation on here regarding myself...and all of ourselves. How we're not getting it right but God is...how the worst things are never the last thing...that redemption is always winning even if we don't readily see it.
 Well...today I'm going to make yet another big revelation about myself. Perhaps you've picked up on it in previous posts, but I'm going to go deeper this time. The last couple of weeks have wrecked me in the best way possible. And I've come to conclusions that have and will forever change the way I do life.
 For most of my life, I've been a fear-driven person. Never really saw that about myself since I have a pretty confident, independent spirit about me. But it's true...and I'm beginning to embrace God's given grace to face the hard truth about this fact.
Over the years, I've feared rejection; I've feared failure; I've feared success; I've feared darkness; I've even feared heights (and still do, by the way!) But the one thing I'm realizing I've feared the most is being known. Deeply and lovingly known. I've always done relationships of any kind on my terms, only letting others in as far as I felt comfortable. Then...setting a boundary when it got to be too close. I've missed out on love in so many little ways because I wasn't sure I could be known and still accepted for the worst of me.
 God has worked through two of three stages of healing in this area of my life as I've journeyed toward grace over the years: 1) to be loved fearlessly by God, 2) to fearlessly love others...and now, 3) to be fearlessly loved by others. I'm realizing just how bad at this I really am. I am slowly learning how to let God love me radically, and I'm getting the hang a bit of how to care for and love on others unconditionally. But this receiving love thing?...that's hard.
 Earlier this summer, I had a conversation with a friend who bravely spoke to my fear about some things involving our friendship going forward and the truth was presented to me in the most gentle way possible: your fears have no place here. This is the safe zone where all things vulnerable, imperfect, not right, weak can be discussed and presented to God in all graciousness and understanding. This conversation led me to begin realizing just how much I doubt others care, how much I question if their love is genuine, how much I hold back out of fear they will leave. I am not willing to let myself be known. It's that simple. And I am wrong for doing so. I'm afraid of what might happen if I let the truth about the worst of me come out. And so I put up walls.
 But what I'm starting to see is that true love takes risks. Those who love fearlessly are willing to go places others won't go. Those people change lives because their love opens closed doors so that others can be fearlessly loved. It's happening to me thanks to a couple of bold and beautiful friends in my life who are kindly but courageously letting me know that it's okay to not be okay, that grace covers all mistakes, that forgiveness runs deep, and that God is forever good regardless of my failings. They are proving one little word or act at a time that those who are my true friends are the ones who wade deep into the heart-messy without fear and bring prayer, healing words of life, and love. Those who walk away from my life are simply ones not willing to be fearlessly loved and known either.
 And so...I'm saying farewell to fear. Because I'm realizing I can't let this run my life anymore. It's been too much of a hindrance to me for more years than I care to admit. It's held me back from taking steps of faith that God and others ask of me. And I'm done with that. I'm ready to be brave. I'm ready to live fully. God cares too much and, as I've recently discovered, others care too much to let me stay in this afraid-ness any longer. It's time to put out my hands in trust and be willing to risk. God's got me...and so do my friends.
 Perhaps you've got an area of your life where you're afraid to be known and deeply loved. Maybe you struggle as do I in this place of being willing to be fearlessly loved and to love fearlessly. It just might help us both if we remember that God risked His life because of His love for us and, therefore, we are free to risk our hearts to love one another in a flawed but similar manner.
 We're more loved than we realize. So let's say farewell to fear. Let's take the faith dare and choose brave together. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Jesus risked Himself on me. How can I not risk my life on you? You may not love me back. You may humble me, humiliate me, reject me, shatter my heart, and drive the shards into my soul - but this is not the part that matters. What matters most is always the most vulnerable communion...What matters is that in the act of loving we become more like the givenness of Love Himself. What matters most is not if our love makes other people change, but that in loving, we change. What matters is that in the sacrificing to love someone, we become more like Someone. Regardless of anything or anyone else changing, the success of loving is in how we change because we kept on loving."
                - Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way

Monday, August 14, 2017

Mercy Changes Everything

 This weekend I sat at my computer, and my heart ached. Scenes of neighbor shouting against neighbor, friend divided against friend, skin-color pitted against skin-color...endless feed of human bitterness, anger, hatred. People bashing one another over religious, social, political, or other differences causing the soul-pain to run deep on all sides. 
 As I stared at the news coming out of Charlottesville, as I saw the endless string of social media posts aimed at "pointing out the truth" while making others feel stupid, as I un-followed some individuals whose angry tone I just could no longer take...I honestly felt sick. Deeply sick. 

Where in the world...in all this broken, sinful world...is grace?!

 Grace. Yes. I think we could all use a bit more of that. And not just grace given from God Himself...but the passing on of that grace to one another. When I see the worst of humanity coming out at times like this, it causes me to realize how often we make society's problems worse because we condemn instead of love, we beat down instead of raise up, we judge others instead of looking at our own selves first. We use our beliefs as a justifying reason for what we say and do but fail to notice the prideful tone in which we do them. We pray and ask God for forgiveness, yet we fail to forgive and pray for those who are in contradiction to our own convictions. We request God's grace, only to turn around and fail to give it to someone else who needs it too. More often than not, we are like the servant in the Bible who was forgiven his own debt but wouldn't forgive the debts of someone else who owed him (Matthew 18:21-35). And, in so doing, we cheapen the very thing God has given us to save us. 
  Sometimes, as His followers, we aren't very wise imitators of the One we profess to believe in. We throw around the phrase, "what would Jesus do?" but in practice, we act of our own will instead of the Savior's. And oddly enough, we feel like our Lord needs defending - like it's up to us to set the world right when, in reality, God really doesn't need us at all. The all-Sovereign God is fully capable of sorting out the issues of the world, and He chooses to use us as His living sermons to a dying culture...yet we think we must, in the name of God, fix everyone and everything. Yet, if we were truthful, we usually end up hurting more than helping God's cause. 
 It seriously pains me to watch so many people who claim to follow God shouting in the streets against the things they think God is against. And I ache inside to think of all the opportunities we're missing, of all the souls we are turning away and hardening, because we aren't willing to listen, to love, to get down into the heart-messy, to be the hands of Jesus to a world in need. We preach about how we need to go and teach nations of God's love yet...here we are: being known to our society as simply the people who are against everything instead of the ones who are for
 Our witness to a watching culture is being diminished more and more as they see us marching in the streets, yelling on social media about how "they're all wrong," turning away those whose hearts are broken because we simply can't figure out how to relate to them, giving the stares to those who are different from us, staying away from the uncomfortable because we're too afraid to step into that in faith. It's easier for us to do as Jesus's disciples did to call down fire and judgement on the ungodly (Luke 9:54) or to start cutting off ears as did Peter (John 18:10) than for us to put aside our emotions and simply extend grace. 
 Have we so quickly forgotten what we have received? Have we neglected to do for others what Christ selflessly did for us and demonstrated as a pattern that we should follow? Have we so soon failed to remember the simple fact that mercy changes everything? 
 After all, if it were not for God's mercy, we would not be able to experience the blessings of this one life we've been granted. God could have had His grace run out a long time ago if He had chosen to, but He continues to be patient with us as His children way beyond what we deserve. If we were to truly take this to heart, perhaps it would be easier to set self aside and learn to love deeply. Only grace can make a human being able to love and care for others who least deserve such. 
 And when we choose to picket instead of pray, to holler and shout down our opponents instead of use soft answers to turn away anger; when we take the position of know-it-alls when our Savior went to the cross and died for sinners who knew Him not, then we've failed miserably in our assignment to represent Him on earth. And people are dying in the soul because of it. People are leaving our churches because of it. People are turning away from our Jesus because of it. 
 It's time for us to stop focusing so much on setting the wrongs right and instead start embracing the lost, the broken, the least of these with the radical love of Jesus. The kind of love that takes freshly-baked muffins out to the rioting street corner and offers food and says, "You're loved." The kind of love that listens deeply and seeks to find common ground instead of staking out divisions. The kind of love that chooses the humbler path, knowing that apart from God, you would most likely be messed up too. The kind of love that remembers what it's been given and simply wants others to feel it too. That kind of love is what can set captive hearts free, open the prison soul-doors and let God's light walk in. That kind of love is what can change a church, a community, a nation, and the world. 
 Racial divides would be torn down if we only saw one another as beautiful creations of the living God, made in His image regardless of whether or not we agree. Arguments about social ills, political correctness, church doctrine, religious practice, etc would be demolished once we simply sought God's Word and way as to how to treat one another and how to fear and honor God Himself. 
 See, it's not really about the issues themselves. It's about us. Our hearts. All the ways in which broken people are trying to get along with and "fix" other broken people. And really, God is the only cure for us all. Grace and mercy must be the beginning and ending points. Otherwise, the noise and the anger only grow, the tensions rise, the hurting continues. It's high time we ask God to forgive us for going about it all so wrong. For choosing fear over faith, for taking sides instead of siding with Him, for picking fights over things that don't matter in the long run. 
 Whatever your cause is that you are engaging in, whatever outreach you are doing, whatever ministry you are taking on, whatever platform God has given you to speak truth to a world that needs to hear about Him...tread carefully how you go about it. Criticizing, judging, making fun of, condemning, picketing, shouting, defending are not the way to bring God's love to a hurting world. Showing grace in the little things as well as the big is. 
Just keep God big in view, and yourself small, and all will right itself. God will go before you and give you words to speak in the moments you need to speak them. God will prepare hearts to receive as you listen to and act on His direction. Because this fight isn't really yours at all. It's His. 
 So please...stop the arguing on social media, stop picketing in the streets, and shouting at your neighbors and enemies, stop taking your causes so seriously that you leave God out. Stop taking on the mountains of falsehood and simply asking God to come along when all God really wants from you is humble, faithful, loving service. Just accept and give grace. And God will take care of the rest. 



Saturday, August 12, 2017

Quote of the Day

"We thought we came to God by doing it right, and lo and behold, surprise of surprises, we come to God by doing it wrong - and growing because of it! The only things strong enough to break open our heart are things like pain, mistakes, unjust suffering, tragedy, failure, and the general absurdity of life. I wish it were not so, but it clearly is."
                    - Richard Rhor

Friday, August 11, 2017

Grace To Fail...And Get Up Again

 How many times has someone ever told you it's okay to fail? Probably not many. And you've most likely never told yourself that it's okay either. In our performance-driven society, mistakes and failures are not given enough credit. I don't mean that striving for excellence isn't a good thing, or that setting goals for yourself and pushing hard to achieve them isn't admirable. But often, an improper idea of failure can cause us to give up hope. We think that it's not okay to fall. That the hallmark of the one who impresses in this world is the one who "has it all together," who finds perfection at every turn. But we fail to remind ourselves that any person who ever did anything worthwhile in this world first learned how to fail before they could learn to succeed. 
 I've struggled with this fear of failure for most of my life. I've never been a natural at anything and, so often, my many attempts at mastery in things left me more discouraged than hopeful. Years ago I would sometimes quit because I felt like I could never be "good enough" for the thing I was striving for, or the people I wanted to please. Over time, I stopped trying because I didn't want the pain of my own lack of ability to hit me in the face... one. more. time. 
 After awhile, this began to carry over into my view of the Christian life. I knew I didn't read the Bible as much as I should, pray as well as others, feel as close to God as the "model believer" ought to, and I felt like I was more fake than authentic. Because I played the believing game and tried to force faith... but I lost. So I gave up. But little did I know that God didn't give up on me that quickly. 
 Grace began to teach me a new way to look at life. And, to this day, it's continuing to revolutionize how I live each God-given day. I'm starting to understand that, when it comes to matters of the heart, belief is a risk you take. Love is a risk you take. Because the Son of God was hurt for you...because He believed in you!

You who can't see beyond your own inability to get this trust thing right...

You who think you're never good enough to love and be loved authentically...

You who fear that all your strivings are in vain...

That all your sins are too great to be forgiven by a holy God...

That you'll never be able to move past these failures of yours and that you're forever defined by the mistakes you've made...

You who have accepted your wounds as un-healable...

YOU ARE THE ONES HE CAME FOR! 

You are the broken ones that He went willingly to the cross for so that you could experience forgiveness and grace abundant. You are the very people He set the Gospel in motion to save. Because nothing is ever wasted in the kingdom of God. And your pain is never the end of the story...unless you tell yourself that it is. The serpent lie of "God isn't enough" has ruined stories and souls since the beginning of time. And our only true failing is when we believe that. 
 Over the summer I have been reading a book that has changed so much for me in regards to the concept of Grace and how living in it opens up the heart to so much hopefulness in spite of continual shortcomings and failures. In her book, Extravagant Grace, author Barbara Duguid writes to all broken ones:

"If you are in Christ you are cherished...wherever you have sinned and continue to sin, He has obeyed in your place. That means that you are free to struggle and fail; you are free to grow slowly; you are free at times to not grow at all; you are free to cast yourself on the mercy of God for a lifetime. Repeated failure does not mean that you are unsaved or that God is tired of you and disappointed. It does mean that He has called you to a difficult struggle and that He will hold on to you in all of your standing and falling and bring you safely home. You have great reason to hope."

 Because the thing is...it's not up to you, dear hurting hearts! It's not up to me either. Our Savior has done all that was necessary to fulfill the perfection we owed God but couldn't make good on. His one death, burial, and resurrection changed the trajectory of all human history so that mankind could have eternal hope in the face of their own failure. And this is why only once in time has a perfect life been laid down for the imperfect...God's Son Jesus did that for us broken ones. 
 As a result of this, God says to us that it's okay to not be okay. It's okay to hurt. It's okay to risk on love. It's okay to fail to get it right...because we're human and we fail all the time. God gets all this and yet loves us deeply anyway. Once you realize that His approval of you isn't dependent on how much you do, how often you do it, how well you do it, or even if you do it...then you can take heart even though you fall. 
 God gives grace to fail...and grace to get up again. Sometimes its easy to think that grace is only there for us when we are fulfilling all God wants us to and, when we fail, that grace somehow goes away. We think that we need to get beyond our sins in order for God to love us more. We think we need to start succeeding and stop failing. 
 But what if we started to see that God won't always give us the victory over our sins as we desire. He may give us grace to overcome them, but He may not. And He may leave us to struggle with our failures so that we come to depend on Him more. But either way He chooses, grace is provided. 
 In short, because the God-Man Himself was strong, we are free to be weak; because He won for us, we are free to lose; because He was Someone, we are free to be no one; because He was extraordinary, we are free to be ordinary; because He has succeeded for us, we are free to fail. And fail big. 
 Once we recognize the simple fact that we can't sustain our good intentions, no matter how hard we try...once we realize that sin will be a constant influencer in our lives until we finally reach our eternal home...once we grasp that we will never be "good enough" but that Jesus stepped in to be all these things on our behalf, it somehow becomes a little easier to breathe freely. To thank more frequently. To notice miracles and blessings previously ignored because we were running ourselves silly trying too hard. 
 It becomes a little easier to face ourselves and live with ourselves because "ourselves" are being re-made and this isn't all there is. Whatever you are beating yourself up about today in your journey through life...your inability to love well, your repeatedly failed attempts at consistent time with God, your lack of prayer, your addiction that keeps haunting you, your fears that keep speaking un-truths in your ears...whatever is keeping you from seeing through to God...know this: God is offering you grace, and He loves you...even though you fail. 
 All your tears, your broken places, your empty soul-spaces...they aren't the end or the defining point of your story. Because God is more. And it's okay that you don't have it all together...because He does...and that's what we need to trust in. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Beloved in the Lord, when anything tries me and my heart sinks, the moment I think of God, the burden is either lightened or removed. The name - the very name - of Jesus soothes and comforts, and I feel nothings is wrong, but all is right that He permits. Oh, it is sweet to repose in His bosom and shelter there until the storm is past. How is it that the Lord places His people so frequently, and keeps them so long, in the furnace? When one trial is over another comes, scarcely, sometimes, allowing breathing time between! Wave resounding to wave! Oh, it is because He loves us and will have us know it. And when trouble comes, small or great, we then shelter beneath His wings or nestle within His bosom and feel the very throbbing of His heart."
              - Mary Winslow in Seasons Of The Heart

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Quote of the Day

"To be brutally honest, it doesn't really matter what place you find yourself in right now. Your part is to bring Him glory...The point of your life is to point to Him. Whatever you are doing, God wants to be glorified, because this whole thing is His."
                 - Francis Chan in Crazy Love

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Quote of the Day

"To all who truly know God - it is a most comforting thought that their affliction comes from Him. It seems to take away the strangeness and the bitterness of it. When once they can realize His hand, then in all their sorrowful thoughts about their afflictions - they think about God too, and this comforts them. It is no longer mere trouble - but trouble which God has sent. If He has sent it - then it is wisely and kindly sent. Is there not a hidden blessing in it? Then the heart goes in search of the blessing and begins to ask why the trouble was sent, what it was meant to do, and how far is has done what it was sent for. And this is the very way to find the blessing.
Besides, when the sufferer thus sees the hand of God in trouble - he reasons that God will never let the trouble be too great. If He sends it - He will not send it too sharply, nor too heavily. There is no chance about it. All is measured and dealt out by an omnipotent hand of wisdom and love! The affliction, therefore, cannot become too sore. When the right point has been reached, when the fit time has come - then He who sent it will say, 'Hitherto shall you come, but no further!'"
                                 - Francis Bourdillon

Monday, August 7, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Away, despair: my gracious Lord doth hear:
Though winds and waves assault my keel,
He doth preserve it: He doth steer,
Ev'n when the boat seems most to reel:
Storms are the triumph of His art:
Well may He close His eyes, but not His heart."
- George Herbert

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Whatever may be the grievous circumstances in which I am placed or the injustice of others from which I am suffering, if my God says, 'Fear not,' I ought surely to be brave and strong. If we can only get firmly fixed in our hearts the truth that the Lord's hand is in everything that happens to us, we have found a balm for all our woes, a remedy for all our ills. When friends fail us and grow cold, when enemies triumph and grow confident, when the smooth pathway upon which we have been traveling suddenly becomes rough, stony, and steep, we are apt to look askance at the visible second causes and to forget that our God has foreseen every trial, permitted every annoyance, and authorized each item of discipline with this set purpose: 'The Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.' Oh heart of mine, what is your response to this demand? Do you not love Him enough to endure any test to prove it?"
                    - Susannah Spurgeon

Friday, August 4, 2017

Choosing Brave

 I ugly-cried. Not gonna lie. It was a full-blown, let-loose, surrendered breakdown. But it was at the same time, a break-through. A moment of clarity. Of realizing that love accepts broken things. Love pursues and embraces broken people with the sole purpose of redemptive hope. 
 I've honestly been a jumble of emotions the past few weeks. It seems as though life has swung between the painful and the joyous, often within hours or even minutes of itself. I've dealt with everything from the heart-ache of hearing about death, soul-resistance, and denial, to the happiness of success, potential, possibility, and second chances. I've advised and comforted souls who were facing the worst about themselves and others, and I've celebrated with those who are stepping into the best life has to give. And I've ridden the ups and downs of my own soul-struggles at the same time. 
 I've spent the recent days processing new beginnings and what they might hold, facing the uncertainty of uncharted territory, contemplating how these new paths might unfold. 
And just the other day, it hit me. Like a healing wave over my worn-down soul, the truth washed over me deep and wide. I confessed my jumble of feelings to a close friend, and they listened. After I had poured out my heart, they spoke to my lack of perspective, to my fear, to my uncertainty, and lovingly told me to open my hands and say "yes" to God. Told me that God's love is enough to fix what isn't right inside and that I have no reason to keep fighting such irresistible grace. Told me that here, in this place of acceptance and forgiven-ness, one is safe to be broken and to give one's self room to grow and change. The friend shared their own journey recently - how dying to their own will opened the way for God to work, how accepting the fact that God asks hard things of His followers changes everything. 
 The prayer and honesty of a timely conversation like this opened the flood gates of this soul of mine and I felt a release of grip in the heart...a letting go that long needed to take place. And it began to sink in deep into my belief - one cannot keep bringing past failures, past mistakes, past struggles, past hurts into the present without it being a detriment to all things new and redeeming that God is desiring to perform in each life. 
 We fail to often grasp that God uses the adversities of our journeys, the broken paths we tread, as a re-ordering of sorts in our souls. The losses that He asks of us are simply making way for better gifts to be granted to us that we may experience the love of God in greater measure. We think we know where God is moving at any time but the reality is, we view the trajectory of all our lives with selfish perspective, and we often demand that God allow us to hold onto people, situations, and opportunities that may not (from His perspective) be beneficial to us in the long run. We get angry when He asks us to sacrifice for His sake because we sinfully think that we should be able to receive His blessings but never have to give up anything for Him. We think that God somehow owes us better than what we have...and we're always requesting Him to do what we desire instead of understanding that it is us who must bend our will to His. 
 God has not failed us...because He cannot. God's purposes are fixed since before the dawning of time and He is working out a kingdom-plan that none of us can or ever will fully grasp. If we were to be able to see inside the mind of the Sovereign God, we could not comprehend such a vast and beautiful scheme. And yet, we think that we - the created ones - know better. How foolish of us! 
 In my own life I see how many times I've let my clouded understanding determine how I will accept or reject God's plans. I fail to think of all the times God has over-ruled my will in order to accomplish His...and just how awesome it turned out to be in the end. I become discontent, frustrated, disappointed. And I fail to thank. I fail to bless. I fail to submit. 
 Through my tears the other day, I pleaded, "God, forgive me! Forgive my prideful soul for ever thinking that I can trace your dealings with me, for ever thinking that Thou art a harsh God with no care. Redeem this broken heart for better things." 
 Following the broken way of the Master, the surrendered path of Grace, is to choose hard things. Every person in the history of the world who ever did anything to advance God's work has had to grasp this great truth: one must choose brave. Every day. Every minute. One must make the constant decision to walk in faith...even when the road doesn't seem clear or make sense. 
And so...I'm making a choice in this day, right now, to trust God. No. Matter. What. I will honestly have to renew that choice probably in a few minutes or hours from now. And will continue to do so for the rest of my life as new challenges arise. But I'm done over-thinking. I'm finished trying to figure it all out...because I miss God when I do so. I miss the blessings. I run past the miracles because I'm holding on too tightly. 
 So let people come and go. Let things die and things be born. Let the cycle of in and out of my life take place...all so that God may do a new work. I'm ready to step into the unknown with bravery and faith. Ready to put my hand into that of the One who knows it all. And because He's guiding it all, I have nothing to be afraid of. Not even my one broken self. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Quote of the Day

"...I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone."
                 - Thomas Merton in Thoughts In Solitude

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Quote of the Day

"What is my dream of God's purpose? His purpose is that I depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay in the middle of the turmoil calm and unperplexed, that is the end of the purpose of God. God is not working towards a particular finish; His end in the process - that I see Him walking on the waves, no shore in sight, no success, no goal, just the absolute certainty that it is all right because I see Him walking on the sea. It is the process, not the end, which is glorifying to God."
                    - Oswald Chambers in My Utmost For His Highest

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Quote of the Day

"God wants us to trust Him with abandon. He wants to show us how He works and cares for us. He wants to be our refuge. Walking in genuine intimacy and full surrender to God requires great faith. Hebrews 11:6 says, 'Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.' 
Back when I was in Bible college, a professor asked our class, 'What are you doing right now that requires faith?' That question affected me deeply because at the time I could think of nothing in my life that required faith...
God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through." 
            - Francis Chan in Crazy Love

Monday, July 31, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Why am I disposed to faint, or to complain under many various afflictions? Because my mind is not yet cast into the mold of the gospel...
'Lord, increase my faith!' Enable me to honor Thee by adding to the too few who suffer cheerfully, glorifying my Father which is in heaven. But this I can only do by the constant influences of Thy Holy Spirit."
                  - Sarah Hawkes in Seasons Of The Heart

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Quote of the Day

"The more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers most."
        - Thomas Merton in The Seven Story Mountain

Friday, July 28, 2017

Quote of the Day

These amazing words were delivered in a speech just weeks ago, and I had to share. A hollywood star speaking from his past experiences dealing with depression and hopelessness to a room full of formerly incarcerated people who are seeking a new beginning:

"Ultimately, I believe that suffering leads to salvation. In fact, its the only way. We have to somehow accept, not deny, but feel our suffering and feel our losses. And then we make one of two decisions: we either decide to go through the gate of resentment, which leads to vengeance, which leads to self-harm, which leads to harm to others. Or we go through the gate of forgiveness, which leads to grace...
Your being here is an indication that you've made that decision already. You've made the decision to walk through the gate of forgiveness, to grace - just as Christ did on the cross. He suffered terribly and was broken by it, to the point of doubt and a feeling of absolute abandonment, which all of you have felt. And then there was a decision to be made, and the decision was to look upon the people who were causing that suffering, or that situation that was causing that suffering, with compassion and forgiveness. And that's what opens up the gates to heaven for all of us." 
                 - Jim Carrey 



Thursday, July 27, 2017

Guest Post: How I Discovered My Faith In Suffering

 Today, I want to introduce you to a very special person. I met Philip Holtz a year ago when he came up to Alaska to broadcast summer league baseball games for the team I work for. As he will tell you, God had much bigger plans for him (and many other people) than just baseball. Philip is truly one of the most amazing and inspiring people I know, and I asked him to share his story with you because not only is it a miraculous one, it is a reminder to us all that even the worst moments of our lives are not the end of the story in the kingdom of God. Without further adieu, I will let Philip take it from here...

"My name is Philip Holtz, and God has definitely had His hands on me throughout all 23 years of my life so far. I came to faith in the Lord through my biggest hardship in my life. That hardship was caused by a benign brain tumor that I had when I was just 2 years old. 

Doctors performed a surgery that removed the tumor, but something went wrong that caused me to have right sided weakness. That would lead me to needing to have both physical and occupational therapy sessions, multiple times per week to help me improve. Those appointments lasted for over half my life. I'm much better and stronger now compared to where I started, but my right side will never be as strong as my left. I would also need around 40 surgeries to date to try to make me as healthy and strong as possible. 

It's kind of hard to remember 40 surgeries, so I'll just focus on the big ones that I can remember. Rewind to when I was about 12 or 13 years old. I had been very sick, and couldn't even walk down the hallway without feeling the need to throw up. At first we thought it was just a bad stomach flu, but it turned out to be much more serious than that. When I had the brain tumor, that required me to have shunts, which are almost like tubes that would drain excess fluid from my brain and into my stomach. If it didn't drain, that would cause severe headaches, and they would cause me to throw up. So that's exactly what happened at that time. 

What started out as just an overnight stay turned into a 28 day stay (over Christmas I might add) that required 7 surgeries. There would times that I would just start to be wheeled out of my room and I would ask, 'Where are we going?' The doctors would reply with, 'You have another surgery today.' My parents wouldn't tell me when my surgeries were because they knew that I would overthink it, which they were absolutely correct on. So after that stay, I was all good from the incident. 

That stay in the hospital really made me think about everything that had happened to me up to that point. By the age of 13, I had already had around 30 surgeries, and the only thing that was 'wrong' with me physically at this time was a brace on my leg and a limp hand. Pretty awesome considering that I could have easily been brain dead or actually dead. It was at that time that I realized that that was too much to happen to simply be a coincidence. My family had raised my brothers and I in a Christian home, and I always considered myself a Christian to that point, but I had never actually given my life to the Lord. It was at that time that I gave my life to God because without Him and His grace, I wouldn't have been where I was at that point or now. 

Since then I've had around 10 more surgeries, including a foot surgery that involved surgeons cutting my heel cord and rearranging the bone structure of my foot, in order to make me walk completely flat. That was one of the toughest ones because I love playing sports, especially basketball, and it took me a year to learn how to run again after that. 

Then, just a year ago, I accepted an opportunity to broadcast for the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks in the Alaska Baseball League, and what made it even better was that the internship was through Athletes in Action, which is a Christian organization. Long story short, I got sick after broadcasting just one game and went to the hospital because my shunts had malfunctioned for the 2nd time in 6 months. But after being in the hospital for a few weeks, I walked out of there shunt free for the first time since I was 2. Absolutely incredible that God would take me all the way to Alaska to solve my biggest issue. The Lord works in mysterious ways, but His plans are always greater than we could ever ask or imagine. God is good.

Now, I'm married to my beautiful wife Lauren, living on our own, and being blessed on a daily basis. In a nutshell, that is how I came to my faith in Christ. It was a road of struggles and hardships, but a road of blessings and miracles as well, and it was totally worth it."




For more information about Philip's story and to read a more detailed post about his summer in Alaska, visit his blog page at: www.philipholtz.blogspot.com

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Quote of the Day

"...Most of the time to discover new meaning we have to go through a crisis, we have to go through a breakdown."
             - Jean Vanier

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Quote of the Day

"You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope."
                 - Thomas Merton

Monday, July 24, 2017

Our Forever Friend

 So often, the most enduring words are born out of the deepest depths of despair. This classic hymn has a tragic beginning and yet, God has used it's author and his words to give hope to millions since its writing. Don't write-off your sorrows, your disappointments, your griefs, as being too deep for God to redeem. Nothing is wasted in the kingdom of God, and He will use a broken, willing heart for beautiful purposes no matter the pain it has gone through. Christ is our forever friend. The world will leave us begging, but God will never leave us empty and alone. 
Take a few minutes to watch this amazing story...you won't regret it. 



Friday, July 21, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Only the man who has had to face despair is really convinced that he needs mercy. Those who do not want mercy never seek it. It is better to find God on the threshold of despair than to risk our lives in a complacency that has never felt the need of forgiveness. A life that is without problems may literally be more hopeless than one that always verges on despair."
               - Thomas Merton in No Man Is An Island

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Quote of the Day

"The very thing we are afraid of, our brokenness, is the door to our Father's heart."
             - Paul Miller

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Why Brokenness Matters

Seizures. That was the common bond. I never would've thought such a topic would be the start of a connection. But we both dealt with them. And thus, we felt bonded. Because we knew what it meant to live with a broken body. What wasn't right with us gave us understanding between ourselves. Imperfection was our starting point. Because, for once, two people couldn't put their best foot forward but rather, their worst.
 I've been thinking a lot lately about brokenness. About why we struggle to accept it as a means to our healing, about why we fear it and think it's our un-doing, about why we are turned off by the presence of it in one another. 
 Several conversations and experiences in the past few weeks have brought it to my attention and have gotten me contemplating the importance of a life lived vulnerably - that the heart is incapable of loving fully without being broken, that we can never gain a full and open life without having a knowledge of our human incapacity to get it right. A life must be emptied of itself before it can be filled with God. It must have felt its worst before God can re-make it into it's best. 
 Lately, I've seen so much evidence of what is not right with the human condition. So many examples of people who would rather run from their fears instead of face them. People who choose to resist the broken way. Who would rather suffer in their soul-hardness than let the pain of being re-born take place. 
 And now I see why some relationships between people hit their ending - it is when souls no longer center around their need for Grace. When witnessing broken things in yourself or another becomes too much, you choose to walk away instead of to welcome God into the situation. And I'm learning to let go of those who make this choice. Because the only thing I can do is to keep on letting God break me to re-make me. Because He loves me. If another decides not to come this hard way with me, then let it be so. I have no control of their soul-ways anyway.
Perhaps it is seizures of the body or seizures of the soul, but I'm beginning to grasp that a broken way leads to abundance because only then do we begin to lean on God more completely. Through all the ways in which we are not perfect, we can begin to slowly see that He is perfection for us. The more I walk this journey to Grace, the more I see proofs of my own ignorance and inability to be the person I want to be. The more I see my own failures, the more I accept the fact that anything worth saying or doing in this life must stem from God. That it's not so much that I am a gift that that world needs but, instead, He is the gift that the world needs! It's not about me. At all. Ever. 
 If I'm not being broken of my pride, my need for control, my ever-present fears that reign...if I am not surrendering all the shattered parts of me so that God can turn me into His re-made masterpiece, then I am no blessing to anybody.
 Truthfully, the friends I most value are those who offered their resigned and God-broken hearts to mine and who accepted this flawed individual lovingly and without reservation, knowing that God is re-making all of us, so why not see through this resurrecting process together?! Shared brokenness brings people closer because God is about making dead things new...
 So why fight the very things that could make us better? Why resist taking the very journey which could lead to our transformation? 
Those who press into the hard lessons, who don't run from the messy in one another but who, instead, sympathize and encourage each other to look to the One who can turn all hard things into good...those are the willing ones who, in turn, see God. And didn't He say so in His sermon of Beatitudes? That the weak ones, poor ones, humbles ones, grieving ones, broken ones, would be the blessed ones (Matthew 5:1-12)?! 
 He gives me a hug and says gratefully, "Thank you for being a part of helping to change my life." Seizures and all that isn't right in this broken world...that's what broke down the barrier and brought understanding. That's what made us want to be friends. Not because we were strong, perfect, or had it all together. But rather, because we didn't. 
 I can't love or listen or help the way I want to, and neither can you. I can't be all I want to be in this one life, and neither can you. Daily, our failings remind us of all the ways in which we're not right. But somehow, by the never-failing grace of God, we can take the path of bravery in that being willing to enter the hard places nobody else will go, we may experience miracles and blessings we could never live otherwise without.
 Whether it's in your marriage, parenting, your dating life, your friendships, your church, your family, your workplace, be patient with the flaws of others. And be patient with yourself. God isn't done with all of us yet and, for every stumble, there is more grace given from Him. By taking the broken way, you just may find healing that you never expected...both for yourself and for others. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Who gets over a love like this? In the midst of trials, Jesus guarantees the best trial outcome: you're guilty, but you get no condemnation. No condemnation for failing everyone, no condemnation for not doing everything, no condemnation for messing up everyday."
                      - Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way

Monday, July 17, 2017

Quote of the Day

"...There was what an Orthodox Hasidic rabbi had said on a flight westward...Somewhere over the mountains, the light thick above the clouds, the rabbi had turned to me, mid-conversation. 'Why do you people always say it's about having a strong belief in God? Who sits with the knowing that God's belief in you is even stronger than yours in Him?' 
I'd put down my Styrofoam cup of black coffee and tried to read the rabbi's face. He'd leaned forward in his seat and tilted his head so he could look at me directly. 'You may believe in God, but never forget - it's God who believes in you.'
He looked out the window and pointed. 'Every morning that the sun rises and you get to rise? That's God saying He believes in you, that He believes in the story He's writing through you. He believes in you as a gift the world needs.'
God's mercies are new every morning - not as an obligation to you, but as an affirmation of you. Was I living my life like I fully believed that?"
                     - Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Quote of the Day

"When your identity is in Christ, your identity is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Criticism can't change it. Failing can't change it. Lists can't determine it. When your identity is in the Rock, your identity is rock-solid. As long as God is for you, it doesn't matter what mountain rises ahead of you. You aren't your yesterday, you aren't your messes, you aren't your failures, you aren't your brokenness. You are brave enough for today, because He is. You are strong enough for what's coming, because He is. And you are enough for all that is, because He always is."
                      - Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way

Friday, July 14, 2017

Quote of the Day

"There is a union for all this brokenness. 
'Ultimately it comes down to this, that the real cause of our trouble is failure to realize our union with Christ,' Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote. That. I sit there in the realization of that real cause of all troubles...
The pieces of me, the shards I didn't know how to gather together again, the ache that kept me up at night that I didn't even have words for - none of the pieces of me would find peace - until I could see and feel and experientially enter into the reality of my union with Christ. Peace isn't a place - its a Person. Peace isn't a place to arrive at, but a Person to abide in. 'I myself am your peace,' says Jesus. 
Is this how you live with your one broken heart? Your one broken heart is only healed by a oneness with Him.
Am I willing to give all I have to Him?"
                - Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Dare To Trust His Love

"It is sufficient proof of our depravity, that we prefer our own ways to the Lord's; nor can He inflict a heavier judgement upon us in this life, than to give us up entirely to the way of our own hearts. He made us to be happy; but He made us for Himself, and gave us a capacity, and a vastness of desire, which only He Himself can satisfy, the very constitution and frame of our nature render happiness impossible to us, unless in a way of dependence upon Him, and obedience to His laws."
                  - John Newton



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Quote of the Day

"The thought comes like something falling softly from beyond the sky: there is no self-chastising or self-castigating or self-berating for even being afraid of brokenness. Maybe I had finally come to the place where I could see myself, my brokenness, my fear of brokenness, with the same tender compassion with which Jesus sees all of me. Maybe the broken way leads to being as compassionate with yourself as Jesus is with your soul, granting yourself the grace He gives, grace to get it wrong and grace to change again, grace to be broken and broken again, and the grace to grow and grow on, like the broken way of seeds. 
Maybe not being afraid of even the fear of brokenness allows you to feel the fear and know its okay because you're never alone in your fear. You are never alone, never abandoned, never not safe..."
               - Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Quote of the Day

"...God's way is always the broken way. For all my prayers and efforts to be broken and given for the suffering of the world, there'd been parts of me still terrified of suffering, avoiding it, still resisting being surrendered and broken and given. But now that is all I want. I want to be part of the fellowship of the broken. The fellowship of the broken believe that suffering is a gift He entrusts to us and He can be trusted to make this suffering into a gift. The fellowship of the broken take up the fearless broken way, are not afraid of brokenness, and don't need to try to fix anyone's brokenness, or try to hide or judge it or mask it or exile it...I can break open my hand and my need to control because I'm no longer afraid of broken things. Never be afraid of broken things - because Christ can redeem anything. When I'm no longer afraid of brokenness, I don't have to control or possess anything - dreams or plans or people or their perceptions. I can live surrendered."
               - Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way

Monday, July 10, 2017

Quote of the Day

"It's not that your heart isn't going to break; it's how you let the brokenness be made into abundance afterward."
               - Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Christ says, 'Give me all. I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it...I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down...Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked - the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.'"
                  - C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity

Friday, July 7, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Real living doesn't always feel like living; it can feel like you're dying. It can feel like you are breaking apart and losing pieces of yourself - and you are. Because when you let yourself love, you let parts of you die. Or you aren't really loving. You must let your false self be broken, parts of you that you only thought were necessary. You must embrace your union with Christ, bravely surrender and trust that what's breaking and being lost is never eternal, needed parts of you, but always the temporal, needless parts that were getting the way of you becoming real."
                  - Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Quote of the Day

"If life were an art lesson, we could describe it as a process of finding how to turn this mud into that porcelain, this discord into that sonata, this ugly stone block into that statue, this tangle of threads into that tapestry. In fact, however, the stakes are higher than in any art lesson. It is in the school of sainthood that we find ourselves enrolled and the artifact that is being made is ourselves."
               - J. I. Packer 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

When The Crazy Kicks In

There's been a lot of the crazy-broken going on lately. And honestly, I'm tired. 

Tired of hearing all the sad things, all the un-mended things, all the reminders that this one life is over faster than we know it...
Tired of the aching feeling in the soul that makes you wish you could slow down time, make all the hurting stop for awhile. 
Tired of the constant thought that bears down on every pain-inflicted heart: where in the world, in all this broken world, is God?

It's been a seemingly never ending string of hard news: people walking away from God, taking their one life and deeming it hopelessly un-redeemable and therefore worth ending, watching cancer waste away a youthful husband and father and ultimately hasten his eternal arrival, the sweet elderly man at church being recently diagnosed with the on-set of alzheimer's and the prospect that in the future he may never know or recognize anybody...it's all a bit much. 

And through all this not-okay, has been the return of a voice that hasn't let humanity go since the beginning of it all in the Garden - the lying invitation to return to your dark places in the vulnerability of your sadness. To go to the odd safety of the past, to live in the vain regrets because God can't be seen in the present. That faith can't hold up. The Enemy-voice has been after us all and seems to speak louder in the moments you are the weakest. 

I share all this not to complain about my one life but to relate to your life. To all our lives. Because I'm sure you're dealing with your own crazy-broken this week too. You may be facing your own fear-mountains, your own tempting moments of doubt, your own tendencies to live your one life in the rear-view mirror. And through it all you may feel alone. And yet, none of us are ever fully alone. 

I sit down to my devotions this morning, and these words seem to jump out at me from the page I read: "God often brings His people into such a condition that they do not know what to do. He does this that they might know what He can do. God is with His people at all times, but He is most sweetly with them in the worst of times," said Puritan preacher Thomas Lye. And it runs deep into my fogged-up soul - I don't know what to do. I can't stop all this loss, this pain, this grief. I can't end all this broken. But in the midst of it all is a call to trust. Once again, to believe. To have faith. To choose the "yes" when everything in me screams the "no!" 

I open the palms of clenched fists and realize that my doubts have no place in this journey of Grace. All that takes place is with a good end in mind. God is not writing the story without full intent to redeem all things. To redeem me. And there's no way to accept that unless one keep telling one's self the truth: that God is always with you, His plans are always good, and you are always loved. 

I face yet another day, unsure of what other crazy-broken may happen in this 24 hours given. But somehow I must keep choosing Gospel - "good news" in the midst of bad news abundant. Because the One at the heart of it all promises that the worst of times can always run in blessing because there is no harsh purpose behind what He has allowed. Even those things which break our souls right in two and make us question every hope, every dream, every honest-to-goodness truth we've ever believed in...even those can be re-made into something beautiful. When the crazy kicks in, God reigns large. 

And the solution to soul-heaviness isn't to ask God to remove pain. It isn't to run from the ache and imagine it's not there. It isn't to shake a closed fist and curse the whole wide wailing world and give in. It's to praise. To bless. To give thanks. 

It runs against everything my heart feels...but then again, that's my trouble. Feelings aren't my ruler. Their only my heart-reactions to the good as well as the un-okay. But truth? That is what must over-ride the affections. Surrendered soul falling deeper into Grace. Deeper into God. Trusting that abundant life still happens and that all trials can produce a better, re-made me. 

I call to mind all the remembrances of His grace in recent times...all the little things that have showed mercy and hope in the midst of such brokenness. And I pray for open hands. I ask Him to help me let go. Because I know I can't become whom I'm supposed to change into without it. I repeat the recent love-words of friends who promise to never leave, of those who continue to show Jesus to a fearful one who is me. And I keep on praying, praising Him because I know He's still working...even if my sight is a bit blinded by my lack of faith. 

And so...I step into another week, seeking forgiveness for my self-love, my doubts, my fears and placing my trembling hands opening into the firm grasp of my Savior. I give my shattered heart over and trust that all this will be resurrected into beautiful. He whispers it to my pounding heart and bids my heaving chest to stop its racing: I am already in your tomorrows. You are right in that you don't know what to do. But I do. And that is enough.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Grace is what holds you when everything's breaking and falling apart, and whispers that everything is really falling together...Once you face Him, you see who you really are...so you can go face anything."
                  - Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way

Monday, July 3, 2017

Quote of the Day

"The heart has to be broken and plowed and resown if it's going to yield. The change must go deeper than the surface. This is only the beginning... And if you want your life to yield, there has to be yielding in the soul. There is a plowing that breaks your soul to grow you."
              - Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Quote of the Day

"You have noticed, I expect, that Christ Himself sometimes describes the Christian way as very hard, sometimes as very easy. He says, 'Take up your cross' - in other words, it is like going to be beaten to death in a concentration camp. Next minute He says, 'My yoke is easy and my burden is light.' He means both...
The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self - all your wishes and precautions - to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead. For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call 'ourselves,' to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time to be 'good'...If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be plowed up and re-sown."
                  - C.S. Lews in Mere Christianity

Friday, June 30, 2017

Choosing Open Hands

 This week I've been taken back on a decade-long journey of reflection. Ten years ago this past Tuesday, my life was rocked. As detailed in my posts last fall, June 27th holds a mixture of emotions for me. It's a date that holds both an end and an beginning, both sadness and hope. It's the date that God began to show me who I was and what He could do if I would be willing to live with open hands. 
 My mind runs back to that night and I can physically feel the darkness still. Sitting at my friends house - everyone else asleep and only me awake, trembling in fear of the future. My dad lying in a hospital bed in the very fight for his one life. Travel plans upended to go visit family and celebrate my high school graduation. Life as I knew it turned upside down in a single instant. I can see that girl that was me back then, shaking her soul-fist at a God she thought she knew but felt denied by...breathing her fears and anger out at Him and asking Him, "why?" Oh...if I only knew then just how much He really did love me and that what was to come was only the start of a journey to Grace. Would I have maybe let go sooner? 
 Oddly enough, I was just over at those friends house earlier this week to celebrate a birthday. Continued and celebrated life. All here. God having the final word. I thought of how little has changed about their home over the years. But I've changed...
 The next day on the 27th, I sat out at a baseball field. It's my new home these days. A place of peace as I look out at the beauty of His created mountains and remind myself that the God who made all this cares for me and loves me more than I'll ever know. I thought of how this new-found family of sorts - this team of young athletes whom I care for deeply - this is a result of the transforming of God over ten years in my life. I wouldn't care for the broken if I hadn't been broken myself. 
 The details of that day ten years ago still can be vividly played in my mind. If I let it, it could take me back into the dark chasms of the heart and cause me to tremble all over again. Trauma has a way of doing that to you. I still can't be in a hospital for more than a few minutes these days. It's just too real. Too hard. But I keep trying to see through to God. And when the fears mount higher, I try to breathe in His life deeper. To talk truth to my broken heart and say, "Choose faith." 
 When I think of it, I'm not certain I would've had a message to give the world if I had not known hardship. If suffering had not become an all too familiar norm, I'm not sure that I would thought to give my one aching heart to God and let Him fill it with His giftings. I'm not sure I would've learned how to thank. To bless. To be a surrendered soul.
 God has a way of asking us to lay down our best for His. And I've come to see that I can never become the offered hope He wants to give to a hurting world if I refuse to daily deny and say "yes" to Him. It is only when I give my greatest joys, my biggest disappointments over to Him and let Him use me in whatever way He sees best that I gain true soul-satisfaction. Being emptied is the only way to truly become filled. Filled with Him. And that brings about completed-ness and hope. I must open my clenched fists and let go if I want to find myself further on this Grace-journey.
 The more I think about it, the more I realize just how fearful I've been. How many times I've let the darkness rule my life. How many times I've listened to myself instead of talking truth to myself. And yet, through it all, God's grace and forgiveness reigned large. He chose to redeem my story. To take all my shattered pieces and turn them into something beautiful for Him. Parts made whole.
 I'm not who I want to be. I'm not who I ought to be. But I'm thankful every day I'm better than I used to be. I'm a tiny step further along the path to wholeness. I never would've thought that God would take me down the road of adversity in order to show me His love. I never would've guessed that I would need to break in order to be fixed. But I see it now and I am grateful.
 Several years ago, I settled on John 8:12 as my life-verse, and it is a promise that I continue to preach to my soul-amnesia prone heart:

"I am the light of the world; he who follows me
shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the 
light of life."

Ah...yes. It is when I fail to follow wherever He leads that the darkness returns. It is when I neglect to thank that the light gets hidden. I often think that this verse doesn't imply that following the Master will lead us to a totally happy existence. Pain will still happen. Darkness will still fall over the heart. Sadness will always be there until eternity is established. But I do think it reminds us all that His light will always find a way into our cracked and broken places. His love will always win. We will not remain in the dark spaces if we choose to keep open hands and willing heart. Our journeys may take us to places that are painful and uncomfortable. But our passage through those places will only make us more conformed to the Savior.
 Ten years ago, God asked me to begin a journey of trust that continues to this day. It's not always easy to keep saying, "Lord, have your way" ....especially when the heartbreaks continue and life appears to be out of control. It's then I must remind myself that what seems to be falling out of place is actually falling into place. Because He's overseeing it all. His providential plan is forever good. And there is never a moment when His design isn't working for the best.
 I don't know what the future holds. And neither do you. But let's keep trusting, dear friend! Let's keep hoping. Let's keep believing. And when the fears loom large, and the pulse pounds, and the thoughts race...let's keep on seeking His grace. Let's keep on choosing faith over fear because, one day, we'll see it all was part of something much greater and better than we ever would have dreamt.



Thursday, June 29, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Oh, come, poor, weak thing, and lie down by faith in the bosom of your Lord Jesus, in the bosom of that infinite fullness, that everlasting strength that is in Him, and take a holy ease from all anxious thought and perplexing fear because of the little strength that is in you...
Come, bow to the Savior. He accounts it an honor done to Him when a poor sinner in his utmost felt weakness says, by faith, 'In the Lord have I strength' - when he says so by way of dependence upon His fullness and by way of persuasion that he shall be supplied from that source. Oh come, cast your care upon Christ! In well-doing, commit the keeping of your soul unto Him as unto a faithful creator who will not forsake the work of His own hands nor suffer the weakest soul that rests on Him to fail."
                          - Anne Dutton in Seasons Of The Heart

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Quote of the Day

"It is beyond the realm of possibilities that one has the ability to out give God. Even if I give the whole of my worth to Him, He will find a way to give back to me much more than I gave."
               - Charles H. Spurgeon

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Quote of the Day

"I wonder if all the bad brokenness in the world begins with the act of forgetting - forgetting God is enough, forgetting what He gives is good enough, forgetting there's always more than enough and that we can live into an intimate communion. Forgetting is kin to fear. Whenever I forget, fear walks in. We're called to be a people known by our remembering - a remembering people. Forget to give thanks - and you forget who God is. Forget to break and give - and it's your soul that gets broken. Forget to live...into communion - and you end up living into a union of emptiness." 
          - Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way

Monday, June 26, 2017

It Is Well

Okay...so my soul and yours need this reminder today. Whatever adversities and heartbreaks we may be facing, whatever fears may be pressing in hard, whatever struggles may be causing you to lose hope in the sovereign plan of God...remember this: those fully praise Him who do so when they have every reason not to. Choosing to thank when life indicates otherwise is what defines a surrendered heart. The author of this hymn had nearly everything taken from him...but he chose to bless God - even in the midst of his greatest sorrow. He knew that his tragedies weren't the end of the story and that God's love would ultimately triumph and His will would have the final word. Keep open hands. Stay open to Grace...because with God, it can always be well with your soul! 




Saturday, June 24, 2017

Holding Nothing Back

"...To renounce self, to live upon Jesus, to walk with God, to overcome the world, to live against hope, to trust the Lord when we cannot trace Him, and to know that our duty and privilege consist in these things, may be readily acknowledged or quickly learned; but, upon repeated trial, we find, that saying and doing are two things. We think at setting out that we sit down and count the cost; but, alas! our views are so superficial at first, that we have occasion to correct our estimate daily. For every day shows us some new thing in the heart, or some new turn in the management of the war against us which we were not aware of; and upon these accounts, discouragement may arise so high as to bring us (I speak for myself) to the very point of throwing down our arms, and making either a tame surrender or a shameful flight. Thus, it would be with us at last, if the Lord of Hosts were not on our side. But though our enemies thrust sore at us that we might fall, He has been our stay."
                      - John Newton 



Friday, June 23, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Jesus is the only one who lays down his life for you first, before He asks for yours. He pursues, He dies, He gives up everything and then calls us to Himself...His love is so great that it compels us to lay down our lives in return." 
                       - Jeff Bethke in It's Not What You Think 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Quote of the Day

"We are by nature at variance with Him. We are too proud to be indebted to His grace, too wise in our own conceits to desire His instruction, too obstinately attached to the love and practice of sin, to be capable of relishing the beauty and spirituality of His commandments. And our love of the world, and the things of it, is too strong and grasping to permit us to be satisfied with the lot and with the dispensations He appoints for us. We wish, if possible, and as far as possible we attempt, to be our own carvers. We are unthankful when He bestows, impatient if He withholds, and if He sees fit to resume the gifts of which we are unworthy, we repine and rebel against His will. This enmity must be subdued, before we can be pleased with His government; in other words, we must be made new creatures. To produce this change, this new creation, the gospel is the only expedient; and when revealed and applied to the heart by the power of the Holy Spirit, the miracle is wrought. The sinner who is first convinced of his guilt and misery, and then reconciled to God by faith in the great atonement, willingly yields to His administration. He owns and feels the propriety of his proceedings, is ready to acknowledge, in his sharpest afflictions, that the Lord is gracious, and has not dealt with him according to the desert of his iniquities. He considers himself no longer his own, but bought with a price, and brought under the strongest obligations, 'to live no longer to himself, but to him who loved him, and gave himself for him.' And what was before his dread and dislike, becomes now the joy of his heart, the thought that the Lord reigneth, and that all his concerns are in the hands of Him who doeth all things well."
                    - John Newton

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Quote of the Day

"In our sufferings, we need to be more concerned about our duty than our deliverance. We should seriously consider what it is that God desires in our present dispensation. There is no condition or trial in the world but we have opportunity to exercise some special grace or duty. To desire deliverance alone is self-love and quite natural to man. In affliction man seeks to be delivered and released from his burden. Men make more haste to get their afflictions removed than to be sanctified in them. Men should sit down, consider their ways, and make new resolutions for better things...God intends good to the soul by the present chastisement, and He directs the soul to discern His aim."
                      - Thomas Case in A Treatise On Afflictions

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

We Are Not Forgotten

"No opposition can prevail against us, if God be for us. It is impossible to deny, or even to doubt, this truth, upon the principles of reason; for who, or what, can injure those who are under the protection of Omnipotence? And yet it is not always easy to maintain the persuasion of it in the mind, and to abide in the exercise of faith, when, to the eye of all sense, all things seem against us. But, though we believe not, He continueth faithful, and will not forsake those whom He once enables to put their trust in Him." 
                      - John Newton




Monday, June 19, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Dear friend, make much of your trials: they are treasures and blessings in disguise, and they quicken to prayer. Pray in the trial, pray over the trial, and pray after the trial, that you may not lose the good it is designed and calculated to import. It is through much tribulation that we are to enter the kingdom; and it is our wisdom and our blessing diligently to watch His providence in all that befalls us in the smaller events of life as in the greater, and when we are tried, to go and ask the Lord to reveal to us the why and the wherefore. If He does not answer us at once, He will in due time make it plain to us, and it shall bring forth good in us and glory to Him."
                   - Mary Winslow in Seasons of the Heart

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Because You Ask Amiss

 This week, I have been reminded of a simple, yet profound truth: that often my greatest disappointments are, in reality, my greatest soul-blessings that I could not otherwise live without. 
 Through my own struggles recently, and those of some closest to me, I've had to speak this over my heart and recall to memory that God is not after my comfort but rather, my growth. While I know this to be true, I so quickly forget it and am prone to question God when He changes directions on me unexpectedly. My human response is to say, "Hey God: didn't you get the memo?!" when what I should be saying is, "Forgive me, Lord, for ever thinking that I knew better." 
 And, when in the midst of great pressure and testing, I frequently ask God to remove the trial, forgetting that such a request is, most often, a lack of faith and desire for ease rather than sanctification. I pray for God to fix the situation when I should be asking Him to simply show me the blessing. 
 His goodness never fails. His love never runs out. I know this. But too often I neglect to preach this truth to myself in the midst of my challenges, and I choose the sinful response of ingratitude instead. Rather than choosing joy - rather than making the conscious choice to be thankful - I just turn right around and tell God to take away the pain. Take away the hurt. Take away the inconvenience of it all. I just want to be comfortable. 
 Thankfully, God doesn't answer these prayers that stem from my feelings. He patiently allows me to rant and puts up with my ungratefulness, but then gives me the truth I need desperately more: "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures" (James 4:3). Ah...yes...pleasure is, once again, what my foolish heart is after. And thus, I ask amiss. 
 Disappointment bound to happen to us all. Dreams die. Hopes are dashed. Plans change. It's the nature of life. But our response to all of those things is what determines our growth or lack thereof. God's primary goal is that we become more Christ-like in our attitude, and suffering is His primary means to achieving that purpose. He knows that, were He to leave us comfortable, we would never be forced to grow or change. It is in being made uncomfortable - in facing uncertainties - that we learn greater trust in Him and His marvelous plan. 
 Whatever it is that you may be going through right now...whatever may be tempting you to question God's goodness and His love toward you...whatever situation you may want out of...remember this: God placed you in it for a reason. Your place isn't to ask Him for removal of the difficulty but rather to obey and say "yes" to Him. Such surrender will often be on a moment-to-moment basis but, in the end, will result in great faith which could never have happened otherwise. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Because He Enables Us To Soar...

"...The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
                            - Isaiah 40: 28-31